The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp will hope his side can expose Arsenal on the break
Jurgen Klopp will hope his side can expose Arsenal on the break

Arsenal were thrashed 4-0 at Anfield in August - can they get revenge here? Michael Cox offers tactical analysis, Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown.

"Don’t expect Liverpool to attempt to dominate possession here - they'll play on the break"

Arsenal v Liverpool
Friday 19:45, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Arsenal 2.68/5, Liverpool 2.915/8, The Draw 3.711/4.

Liverpool aiming for the double over Arsenal

It's the most wonderful time of the year - plenty of football, and the Christmas period essentially begins with this Friday night cracker between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates.

In the reverse fixture, Liverpool inflicted a crushing 4-0 defeat of Arsenal, with their speedy counter-attackers enjoying oceans of space on the break. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge all got themselves onto the scoresheet in one of Arsenal's worst-ever performances under Arsene Wenger, and there's a serious danger something similar will happen here unless Arsenal are considerably more organised.

Liverpool remain the Premier League's best counter-attacking side, having scored nearly twice as many goals on the break as any other side in the division so far. Don't expect Liverpool to attempt to dominate possession here - they'll look to sit deeper, win the ball with quick integrated pressing in midfield, before storming forward on the break through Salah and Mane.

Klopp's formation decision

Jurgen Klopp has occasionally used a 4-4-2 formation in recent weeks, but here he's much more likely to deploy a 4-3-3 to avoid being outnumbered in the centre of the pitch. This means Philippe Coutinho will revert to his central midfield role, probably alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson.

However, Klopp may consider using Emre Can in place of Wijnaldum to provide more defensive physicality, and it's not unrealistic that he might use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, encouraging the midfielder to prove a point to his former employers.

In the final third, Mane should start on the right and engage in a speedy battle with Hector Bellerin, who has looked rather fatigued in recent weeks having not missed a single minute of action all season.

Wenger's left-back dilemma

Salah, though, is the main threat - and Wenger has a major decision to make at left-back. For the previous two games he's fielded Ainsley Maitland-Niles, an up-and-coming right-footed midfielder, in that position.

But that would be suicidal against Salah, and he surely must either move Nacho Monreal from centre-back to his preferred position on the left, or bring back Sead Kolasinac, who seems to have fallen out of favour since Wenger reverted to a back four. Shkodran Mustafi should return in the middle of the back four.

In midfield, the absence of Aaron Ramsey is a blow - but the Welshman's continual motoring into the final third in the reverse fixture meant Granit Xhaka was completely overwhelmed at transitions.

Xhaka will probably be fielded in the deep midfield role here, with Jack Wilshere his closest support, and Mesut Ozil - playing a deeper role than usual in recent games - completing the trio.

Arsenal should get on the scoresheet

Liverpool's defensive record has improved significantly in recent weeks, and while there's an outside chance Joel Matip may return, Klopp will probably be happy enough keeping Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren together. They'll have to watch the movement of Alexandre Lacazette closely.

It's out wide where Arsenal may cause problems, though. Alexis Sanchez hasn't been in great form, but will be confident of getting the better of Joe Gomez.

On the other side, midweek goalscorer Danny Welbeck might get the nod over Alex Iwobi, especially because this 4-3-3 system means Wenger will want more of a forward than a midfielder on the right. Up against Andrew Robertson or perhaps James Milner, Welbeck could cause problems.

I fancy goals at both ends here - with Liverpool to get the lion's share. They're simply so dangerous on the counter-attack, and with Arsenal's insistence on dominating possession, I think they could play into Liverpool's hands and fail to learn lessons from the reverse fixture. I'll back Liverpool at 2.89/5.

The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson

Liverpool put themselves right back on track with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Bournemouth last time out and will head to Arsenal in good spirits and certainly more confidence that they can get something out of the game.

Arsenal have also responded to a couple of indifferent results with back-to-back wins in the league and the cup so they will also be feeling more confident going into this massive game.

The Gunners have been especially good at home this season, suffering just the one defeat against Manchester United but they have only won four of the last six meetings against Liverpool at the Emirates. Last season produced a classic 4-3 win in favour of the Reds and another defeat here would leave Arsene Wenger’s men four points behind their opponents.

There have been plenty of goals in the last few meetings between the sides and both teams to score looks like a probable outcome but it is priced accordingly at around 1.51/2. Similarly over 2.5 goals doesn’t look to appetising at 1.625/8.

Arsenal haven’t scored more than once in any of their last four league games and that is a concern against a Liverpool side that look full of goals again. I had Liverpool at 2.747/4 for this game and being able to back them at 2.915/8 looks good to me.

I think Liverpool to win and both teams to score is an option at anything around 4.57/2, but I am happy with the match odds price and will be backing Liverpool @ 2.942/1 to open that gap.

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